President Donald Trump trails several leading Democratic candidates, as well as U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, at this point in the presidential campaign in the state, according to a new Star Tribune Minnesota Poll.
The two current front-runners for the Democratic nomination, former Vice President Joe Biden and U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, both beat the president by double digits among Minnesota voters. Voters polled picked Biden over Trump by 12 percentage points, 50% to 38%.
Warren, who attracted a large crowd at an August campaign rally in St. Paul, tops Trump 51% to 40%. U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, who places third in most national polls of the Democratic field, is ahead of Trump 49% to 40%.
The survey also asked voters about a hypothetical match-up between Trump and Minnesota’s Klobuchar, who trails in the crowded Democratic field. The third-term senator finished ahead of Trump by the widest margin, 55% to 38%. The poll of 800 registered voters, conducted Oct. 14-16, has a margin of error of 3.5 percentage points.
The poll was conducted less than a week after Trump visited Minneapolis for a high-profile campaign rally as part of an emerging effort by a Republican nominee to carry Minnesota for the first time since 1972. Trump vowed an all-out fight to win the state, which he narrowly lost to Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in 2016.
With four months to go until the Iowa caucuses and 19 candidates still in the race, the fight for the Democratic nomination is far from settled. A number of those polled who opposed Trump’s re-election said in follow-up interviews that they remain torn on which Democrat is best positioned to beat the president.
“I would vote for anybody but Trump. Anyone,” said Ron Hagland, a retired social worker from Cloquet.
Hagland, 72, who described himself as a political independent who leans libertarian, is seeking a “middle-of-the-road” Democratic nominee. He likes Klobuchar but worries she can’t win. He called Trump “absolutely unqualified” for office. “He has demonstrated … behavior that is just a breach of trust with the American public,” he said.
Karen London, 63, a real estate professional from St. Louis Park, shares Hagland’s outlook. London, a self-described independent who voted for Clinton in 2016, said she tried to give Trump a chance after his election. But his presidency has left her in a “deep depression.” She picked Biden, Sanders and Warren over Trump in the head-to-head matchups, even though she thinks all three front-runners are too old. Her favorites right now are South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris and Klobuchar, but she worries about the electability of all three. Ultimately, she said, she will support the Democratic nominee, whoever it is.
The president’s backers remain deeply committed in their support, particularly voters in rural areas and in the Twin Cities suburbs.
Chris Skluzacek, 52, a maintenance director at a senior living center, said he voted for Trump in 2016 because he always wanted to see a businessman as president. The New Prague resident hasn’t been disappointed and plans to cast a ballot for Trump again next year.
“I think the economy’s better,” he said. “It seems to me there’s jobs opening all over.”
The outcome of the election in Minnesota — and nationwide — may swing on voters in crucial “pivot counties,” who helped seal Trump’s victory by going for the GOP nominee after voting for Barack Obama in the previous two presidential elections.
Erik Bangert, 46, lives in one of 19 of such counties in Minnesota. The grain truck driver from Twin Lakes voted for Obama twice. But in 2016, hungry for a change and fed up with politicians he didn’t trust, Bangert went for the candidate he considered the “lesser of two evils” — Donald Trump.
“He’s like a, I can’t say a real person, but he says it like it is and doesn’t try to sugarcoat anything,” Bangert said. “And he doesn’t get offended by everything and things people say.”
Bangert plans to vote for Trump next year. Like Skluzacek, he cited the economy as a driving factor. “Unemployment’s down,” he said. “Jobs, that’s a big thing.”
When it comes to the presidential election, Minnesotans remain divided on gender, geographic and partisan lines. While the three front-runners for the Democratic nomination outpoll the president by wide margins in Hennepin and Ramsey counties, Trump ties or leads among voters living in the metro suburbs and greater Minnesota. In Northern Minnesota, voters prefer Trump over Biden 47% to 41% and Warren 49% to 43%. Klobuchar, who won commanding victories against Republican rivals in her Senate races, is locked in a statistical tie with the president among voters living in the suburbs and in rural areas north and south.
Independent voters in Minnesota lean toward Trump’s Democratic challengers, the poll showed. The Democratic candidates’ victory margins narrow among male voters and those making $50,000-plus a year. All four of Trump’s rivals included in the poll win a majority of women, a key voting bloc for the Democratic Party in the 2018 midterms.
Some polls and projections leading up to the 2016 election, including those conducted in Minnesota, failed to fully capture support for Trump. Benjamin Toff, an assistant professor and expert on polling at the University of Minnesota’s Hubbard School of Journalism and Mass Communication, pointed to a report that cited methodology issues in some state-level polls and undecided voters breaking for Trump or a third-party candidate at the very end of the campaign as key factors.
Skluzacek has friends and neighbors who shy from publicly backing the president.
“I know when it comes to it, the way they’re going to vote is going to be Trump,” he said.
And, with more than a year until the November general election, not all voters have made up their minds on whether to support Trump or an eventual rival. Across the four matchups, between 7% and 12% of respondents remain undecided.
Ruben Perdomo, 52, has concerns about Trump’s handling of trade and foreign policy. But the painter from Farmington also isn’t sold on any of the Democrats in the race. He plans to wait to learn more about the candidates and see how the economy fares.
“In the end I have to make a decision, obviously,” he said. “But right now, I don’t know.”